The ‘idyllic’ celebrity playground for the rich has a dark underbelly of drugs and crime which could have engulfed missing Theo Hayez. Picture: Luke Marsden
The ‘idyllic’ celebrity playground for the rich has a dark underbelly of drugs and crime which could have engulfed missing Theo Hayez. Picture: Luke Marsden

Dark side of paradise where teen is missing

Behind the glittering image of being a cool celebrity paradise, Byron Bay has a dark side of drugs, violence and homelessness which may have swallowed up Theo Hayez.

Australia's beachside enclave to the rich and famous, which attracts young Hollywood celebrities with its hippy vibe, Byron Bay has a rotten undercurrent.

Kept mostly hidden from public view and the important tourist market, the drugged-up drifters make up a sinister underbelly of the "idyllic" resort town.

Byron locals have told news.com.au Hayez, the 18-year-old Belgian backpacker who vanished off Byron's streets five months ago, could easily have been engulfed by this dark side.

Better known for making headlines for hosting the likes of the Hemsworth brothers and A-lister Matt Damon, "The Bay" has become a rampant methamphetamine centre for addicted itinerants.

Locals say far from Theo being safe to walk the streets, he could have been caught up in "the perfect storm" by encountering a desperate or "psycho" transient.

"The people making money out of Byron don't want you to know, but when you live here you see it," a resident told news.com.au, on the condition of anonymity.

"Homeless people with mental illness, psychos on drugs, there's a paedophile I used to see every morning on the beach … doing things.

Theo Hayez, caught on CCTV in Byron’s streets before he vanished, could have been caught up by the dark underbelly of the celebrity playground.
Theo Hayez, caught on CCTV in Byron’s streets before he vanished, could have been caught up by the dark underbelly of the celebrity playground.

"Between Belongil Beach and town, well ice (methamphetamine) has become a big problem here.

"The town is full of unemployed people who have missed out on a chance in life.

"Byron has a very dark undercurrent.

"The people who are making money here don't want all the tourists to know the dark side in case it stops them coming."

Another resident said Theo Hayez, the 18-year-old who vanished on May 31 and whose only trace is a grey cap found in dense bushland in July, could easily have become victim to one of Byron's illegal camp dwellers.

"They come here because it's warm and live for free in broken or busted up old tents outside the legal camping grounds," he told news.com.au

"They come into town and sit in Railway Park.

"They spend their dole money on ice and walk around the street screaming.

"But for tourists, mostly it's all hidden.

"You have to be mindful walking around in the dark here and it's known for drink spiking.

"Girls have been found naked running around the car park, off their heads."

On the main street running between Byron's hundreds of luxury hotels, Railway Park is a magnet for the homeless.

Hollywood stars Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky's multi million dollar property in the hills behind Byron Bay.
Hollywood stars Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky's multi million dollar property in the hills behind Byron Bay.

Just 250m from the old Centrelink office which closed permanently last November, forcing welfare recipients to travel to Brunswick Heads, it is on the same street as Cheeky Monkeys bar.

This was the last place Theo Hayez was seen, before he was ejected for being "approaching intoxication", despite reportedly only having drunk moderately.

Google tracking of his phone has since placed him walking in the opposite direction of his hostel, Wake Up!, a 30 minute walk back to Belongil Beach.

It has been determined that Theo instead walked east and along a street to the unlit Milne Track, which would have been pitch black, through dense scrub to Tallow Beach.

Local Nicoletta Revis, who has walked the track in daylight, said Theo was unlikely to have chosen that path on his own, and part of the path requires "ducking and weaving" the scrub.

Hayez, whose case NSW Police have referred to the state coroner, had been in the town just two days, and was due to end his travels in a week and return to Belgium.

Last year, The Daily Telegraph reported the meth epidemic which had swamped Byron, resulting in bizarre occurrences.

On Christmas night 2017, a 23-year-old Canadian backpacker high on ice ran naked down the main street, cracked a police car windscreen with his body and headbutted its window.

A man was photographed calmly smoking synthetic LSD near a children's playground.

A 15-year-old you was arrested naked and running down a street, and another man who went berserk on strong ice or possibly the zombie drug flakka, had to be subdued by eight people.

Ice is sold for half the price it costs in big cities, and in prime tourist season - December and January - desperate addicts are committing violent muggings to get cash.

Star Chris Hemsworth at Byron Bay launching his health and fitness app, Centr.
Star Chris Hemsworth at Byron Bay launching his health and fitness app, Centr.

In 2015, two women were approached by knife-wielding men while walking on a Sunday evening on Byron streets.

A man armed with a knife demanded money from a woman, 26, at an ATM on Jonson Street at 7.25pm.

Five minutes later and 400m away, a man with a knife grabbed a 76-year-old woman's handbag and took off.

Linda Tregerthan was stabbed to death.
Linda Tregerthan was stabbed to death.

 

Ms Tregerthan’s body was found after a vicious attack in her Byron Bay house (above). Picture: Lismore Northern Star
Ms Tregerthan’s body was found after a vicious attack in her Byron Bay house (above). Picture: Lismore Northern Star

Local environmental activists Sue Arnold told The Telegraph the tourism industry had become "too greedy" and was "killing the goose that laid the golden egg".

She said locals were being pushed out.

In 2007, hippy naturopath Linda Tregerthan was murdered in a savage and ferocious attack at her Byron Bay home.

Ms Tregerthan, whose house had been a haven for wayward women and alternative lifestylers, was killed with multiple stab wounds.

A 46-year-old German national was later found not guilty of her murder my way of mental illness.

The family of Theo Hayez are still searching for clues as to his whereabouts.

Anyone with information can call Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000, or contact the Hayez's Facebook page, Looking for Theo Hayez.

candace.sutton@news.com.au

Matt Damon (right) with Elsa Pataky and his wife Luciana Barroso attend Bluesfest at Byron Bay. Picture: Instagram @elsapatakyconfidential
Matt Damon (right) with Elsa Pataky and his wife Luciana Barroso attend Bluesfest at Byron Bay. Picture: Instagram @elsapatakyconfidential
A man smokes synthetic acid only metres away from a kids playground on the main beach of Byron Bay. Picture: Nathan Edwards
A man smokes synthetic acid only metres away from a kids playground on the main beach of Byron Bay. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Missing five months, Theo Hayez.
Missing five months, Theo Hayez.
Behind the glitter is an ice epidemic.
Behind the glitter is an ice epidemic.
Railway Park in Byron’s town centre is a magnet for homeless and drug-taking drifters.
Railway Park in Byron’s town centre is a magnet for homeless and drug-taking drifters.
Police search and talk to a teenager during schoolies week in Byron after a drug sniffer dog stopped him on the street.
Police search and talk to a teenager during schoolies week in Byron after a drug sniffer dog stopped him on the street.
Young people on Byron’s Main Beach not far from where homeless people illegally camp in filthy tents. Picture: Luke Marsden
Young people on Byron’s Main Beach not far from where homeless people illegally camp in filthy tents. Picture: Luke Marsden
A homeless person’s tent sits next to a beachfront house at Belongil Beach in Byron Bay Picture: Jason O'Brien
A homeless person’s tent sits next to a beachfront house at Belongil Beach in Byron Bay Picture: Jason O'Brien
Clarkes Beach near where an illegal camp of broken up busted tents are lived in by homeless drug-addicted drifters.
Clarkes Beach near where an illegal camp of broken up busted tents are lived in by homeless drug-addicted drifters.
CCTV image of Theo Hayez (right) in a bottle shop on the night he disappeared in May.
CCTV image of Theo Hayez (right) in a bottle shop on the night he disappeared in May.
Byron Bay ice user. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Byron Bay ice user. Picture: Nathan Edwards

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